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The Word of Life Mural

Begin this segment when you are in front of the large mural of Jesus on the south side of the library.

Narration by Father Nate Wills, C.S.C.

This mural on Hesburgh Library is commonly called "Touchdown Jesus." It measures a towering 134 feet high by 68 feet wide and is composed of more than 5,700 multi-colored pieces of granite. It got its nickname because Jesus has his arms outstretched in the same position a referee uses to signal a touchdown. And it can be seen from inside Notre Dame Stadium. But the actual title of this mural is the “Word of Life.”

The origin of this title is from the first chapter of the Gospel of John. In that passage, Jesus is described as the “Word of God” who gives life to all things. The artist put Christ The Teacher at the center of this mural and then surrounded him with scholars, thinkers, teachers, and saints throughout history. Below the mural is the main entrance to the Hesburgh Library and as people walk in and out of the library, they in essence become a part of this mural. The modern day saints and scholars who walk through those doors are the continuation of this tradition as we bring the Word of Life, Jesus, alive in our prayer, work, and study.

Advancing human understanding in a way that also helps us grow in love of God is the fulfillment of the hope-filled vision that Father Sorin described in his letter during the first winter of 1842. He wrote, Notre Dame “will be one of the most powerful means of doing good in this country.”

Below the giant mural stands a statue of Father Hesburgh with his good friend and University Executive Vice President, Father “Ned” Joyce, who was also a Holy Cross priest. The two stand together in conversation, as if discussing plans or a grand idea. This is how the two led the University for 35 years, and it is the same posture of dialogue that Notre Dame adopts towards the world at large.

In the words of Father Hesburgh inscribed in the base of this statue, a Catholic university should be a beacon that reveals faith seeking understanding. It should be a bridge across all chasms that separate modern people from each other. It should be a crossroads where all the intellectual and moral currents of our time meet and are truthfully considered.

Visitors are welcome to explore the library. When you are ready to resume the tour, return to the reflecting pool and face the stadium as you begin the next segment.